The Dust Bowl


Everybody said the hot winds were blowing the dust in from west Texas. The wind picked up even more dirt and dust from the local plowed fields and blew it right in your face. You would walk around in the dim light and taste the dust in your mouth and then get some dirt in your eyes. It brings your life to a halt. You have to find something to wipe your eyes but you can hardly see so you use the hem of your dress.

It is three oíclock in the afternoon. The dust still fills the air. A thunderstorm is brewing, the sky turns even darker. The chickens come in to roost thinking it is evening. We begin praying for rain but the storm blows over with not a drop of rain. So the dust keeps blowing in day after day.

The grasshoppers swarm in the fields. The corn is waist high with the leaves completely eaten away, leaving only the center vein hanging from the stalk looking like strings growing from the stalk.

While the grasshoppers are eating the corn , the cinch bugs are eating the alfalfa and gradually eating their way across all the fields. The agriculture county agent comes by to tell the farmers what they must do to save the crops.

Dad is to make a trench four inches deep around the infected crop, then pour creosote into the trench. With Mom, Al, Bill and I helping , we worked fast to keep ahead of the bugs. But the remedy is useless and the bugs keep going to the next crop, eating everything that the grasshoppers didnít get to first.

Dad is worried, heís afraid the bugs are going to completely eat all the pasture grass and he will be forced to sell the livestock. The bugs get to the pasture and eat almost all the grass. Dad sells off part of the stock (for practically nothing) but does manage to keep enough cows to supply milk for the family.

Mom did the washing each Monday morning. The dust had usually settled over night so the mornings would start out very peaceful and mom would think ďGood, maybe Iíll get these clothes washed starched and dried before the wind and dust begins.. The grasshoppers didnít help any because they ate the starch from the clothes and left tiny holes in the fabric. Sure enough, about the time she got all the clothes on the clothesline the hot dry dust would, once again, begin to blow.. Mom took the clothes off the line the minute it got dry to keep the grasshoppers from eating the starch and to keep the clothes from getting dirty again from the dust..

The federal government stepped in with programs to help farmers claw out of the hard times. One program created a system of conservation districts so community leaders could spread the word of sustainable farming practices and tailor them to the needs of each piece of land. The conservation programs were voluntary and dad thought there was no harm in trying them. Wind brakes were advised so dad planted hedge trees along the west side of the farm. They also recommended contouring and terracing the land to retain the water and minimize soil runoff. Both ideas took years to develop. The hedge trees were small and it took time for the government to analyze and tell the farmer how to contour the land. .Meantime the wind and dust kept blowing.

Some land simply was taken out of production. The federal government paid some farmers to leave their land alone, for many those payments were their only source of income. The government didnít give dad the opportunity to take advantage of this program.

Mom and dad began reading about irrigated farms and the idea of having water when and where you wanted it began to sound pretty darn good. They survived the depression and the dust bowl days . The idea of all that running water would not go away so in 1945 they sold the farm and moved to Yakima Washington .

Return to stories